With COVID-19, a new phrase ‘scientific’ has been coined to counter the spread of the virus and the need to keep social distance. This has been a punch in the gut to what makes us all human – social interactions. It has therefore pushed people to resort to using technology to interact and deliver services. It is now scientific this, scientific that. In fact, ‘scientific’ is now being referred to as the new normal by many.The whole world is now embracing the ‘scientific way of life.’ All Church activities are now “scientific” – you now have a ‘scientific’ wedding, ‘scientific’ baptism, ‘scientific’ mass and ‘scientific’ holy communion. And of course, ‘scientific’ education. ‘Scientific’ marriages, ‘scientific’ burial’, ‘scientific’ conferences, ‘scientific’ concerts, ‘scientific’ meetings, ‘scientific’ graduations, are all waves we can’t get enough of. How about the ‘scientific’ budget 2020/2021? The national elections of 2021 have also been baptized ‘scientific’ elections. Candidates have been encouraged to conduct campaigns via digital channels – television, internet, mobile phones and social media. The list is endless as everything is now done or delivered via digital channels; including social media, online and television live broadcasts.
Our stance as the church
Whether the Holy Mass is delivered via digital channels – on social media, television, or otherwise or physically with congregants in the Church, the blessings and intentions are the same. This is the foundation of our faith as stated in the Church Creed, I quote “… I believe in one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.” Be it as it may, the coronavirus pandemic has allowed the enemies of religion to create an impression of change in the practices of our religion.
But what we believe in has not changed. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many Churches had implemented the use of social media, on-line preaching, and live mass broadcasting to deliver the Good News to the masses. To further the call in Mark 16:15, “He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” Thanks to Coronavirus, the Church has the opportunity to fast track the adoption of digital and other channels to reach even more people. And indeed, some of my friends who had not visited Church for a long period, now tell me that “I was on-line attending Mass.” There is Holy Mass, not scientific mass. Baptism, not scientific baptism. Wedding and not a scientific wedding.
How can we survive in this new world order?
Before the pandemic, the world was said to be experiencing a VUCA revolution defined by increasing automation because of the fourth industrial revolution, the internet of things, robotics, virtual reality, machine learning, and advanced computing power. The VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous was said to be changing rapidly, and to survive, people had to embrace the new oil – data and information. But with the pandemic, we now have a VUCAP world – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and pandemic. The pandemic has intensified the VUCA. To win, both individuals and organizations must be agile, responsive, and lean. This is the new world order we are all learning to cope with and survive.
Unlike the financial-economic crisis of 2008, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all industries, while giving advantages to select few like technology companies to thrive. Sectors like Aviation, Hospitality, Tourism, Entertainment, and main-stream businesses have suffered the wrath of the pandemic. Places of worship, Churches, which bring many people together have too suffered because of this virus. And things seem to worsen by the day.
In times like these, your dominating goal is to navigate this period safely, supporting your family, business, and Church to continue operating. The Church must now create digital channels and online registration of all parishioners to create a platform for ease of communication, support among the same parishioners, and social media counseling for psychosocial support that families need most during these times. But this applies to everyone including businesses. You need a forum to engage with your stakeholders in real-time. Any Church that fails to embrace the digital agenda shall end up failing to survive the new world order.
Small institutions may be considered more vulnerable, but this may not necessarily be true. Pre-hard time financial conditions and performance also do not matter. Leading institutions go under during hard times even when they were doing well financially before the hard times. The same applies to individuals and families.
You must change fast or perish helplessly. Likewise, the Church has done the right thing to adopt and embrace new technologies. But the Church should not fail to establish digital channels to facilitate Christians with adequate savings and passive income sources to support the Church in this time of need. The Church must play a critical role in mobilizing funds from those who can donate and help the less privileged members of the community. In times like these, people seek refuge in the Church. They should not fail to. COVID-19 has been a great disruption, but has also created many opportunities, especially for creative and responsive leaders!
As several businesses are experiencing a period of slowed business and economic growth and loss of key customers, dynamic business leaders are moving forward and thriving despite the backward push and roadblocks created by COVID-19. This goes more than terming it, ‘scientific’.
Remember, when hard times hit, your response actions matter more than all your pre-existing factors and conditions before the hard times. And whatever you do, put people at the center of your response strategy. ACT. (Be) Agile. Change (fast). Teach (to empower). And win. But, if you are to win, you must throw the old strategy out of the window. This goes beyond the ‘scientific’ way of life many are using to describe the changing times.
By Bernabas Mustapha Mugisa
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